Desolation Island by Adolfo García Ortega (Translated by Peter Bush) - review by Michael Jacobs

Michael Jacobs

Patagonian Adventures

Desolation Island

By

Harvill Secker 390pp £18.99 order from our bookshop
 

Desolation Island begins as a classic seafaring yarn, with a mysterious Irish-American Spaniard telling the tale of a boat journey to South America’s southernmost tip. However, this is clearly not going to be a straightforward story. We soon learn that this narrator shares the same name as H G Wells’s Invisible Man, Griffin, and that his grandfather was a magician who fell in love with a beautiful widow obsessed by a sixteenth-century automaton which ends up – like the mylodon remains that provide the framework of Bruce Chatwin’s In Patagonia – in the Salesian Museum at Punta Arenas.

The reader wearily anticipates a clever postmodernist exercise laced with a heavy dose of magical realism. The density of the prose and endless tales within tales might prevent some people from continuing any further. But, as the spiralling complexities mount up, Adolfo García Ortega’s energy and relentless inventiveness succeed in

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